Combo Devils kicks Marvel vs. Capcom into Super Smash Bros.

Developer Punkzilla elevates the popular SSB fighting system by adding air dashes, juggles, EX specials, and much more.


One of the most surprising things I learned during GDC 2024 was that Combo Devils doesn’t have a publisher yet. Tucked away in the corner of the Day of the Devs event in San Francisco, this fighting game still drew a crowd who were amazed with the progress that it already showed. Its responsive and fluid combat, which takes the familiar system of Super Smash Bros. and adds the finesse of Marvel vs. Capcom, would be surprising to see from an established studio. But developer Punkzilla is only made up of a team of five, who must all be wildly talented to wear so many hats.

A well-grounded, technical powerhouse

Combo Devil Fight Combat Jingo Achilles
1v1 fights in Combo Devils are intense and great for showcasing player skill.

SOURCE: Shacknews

First and foremost, Combo Devils relies on substance. It’s got a lot of style too, but the character roster isn’t chock full of licensed characters from, say, Nintendo, Marvel, DC Comics, and Warner Bros. The appeal of the game comes primarily from its flexible and wonderfully swift combat, with Punkzilla being confident that the fighting game community will embrace its attention to detail. Combo Devils is still about doing enough damage to knock opponents off the stage, but it allows you to bring a high level of technical skill to the table, arguably even more than other platform fighters like Rivals of Aether and Rushdown Revolt.

Regardless of which character you choose, each one has access to a wide range of moves to inflict damage, perform combos, and prevent themselves from falling into the pit. Beyond light, medium, heavy, and special attacks, characters can execute EX specials by using a part of a meter, launch enemies in the air for multi-hit juggles, and unleash a super move that typically requires quarter-circle or half-circle inputs. On defense, you need to block in a specific direction for it to work properly and you need to be careful not to enter a break state by using too many maneuvers that deplete the defensive gauge. For quick traversal, you have access to super jumps, wavedashes, in-air flash steps, and dodge rolls. If you’re trying to reach a ledge, wall slides will reset your aerial recovery moves, giving you more chances to save yourself. If you’re technically proficient, you can cancel normal attacks into specials and even parry or reverse oncoming strikes.

Still in training

Combo Devils Roguelite Co-op Mode Beat Em Up
This co-op rogulite mode will be a test of your party's fighting skills

SOURCE: Shacknews

The demo at the event showed off three characters in an exhibition mode with 1v1, 2v2, and four-player free-for-all. Jingo, a shiba inu ninja who may remind you of Jago from Killer Instinct, uses teleports and shurikens for quick rushdowns. The Olympic golem Achilles relies on throws, high-impact punches, and defensive skills to hold his ground, while the huntress Ikani has long range normals with her spear and commands her bat Xochi for various attacks. The full roster in the selection menu has space for twelve characters in total, with a fourth character named Shai having been revealed last month in February, so there’s plenty of content left to be revealed.

Better yet, Punkzilla plans to create a full-fledged campaign that will teach the game mechanics as well as a roguelite beat-’em-up where you and your friends defeat enemies together. At certain points in this roguelite mode, your party will be able to select different character perks and unique artifacts for bonuses during a run. It’s unclear how extensive both of these modes will be as they will largely depend on how much funding Punkzilla is able to secure. But it’s great to see that more co-operative content is in the works.

Combo Devils is expected to release some time in 2025. For now, Punkzilla plans to make the game available on PC first before releasing it on other platforms. If no publisher comes on board, the developer will consider crowdfunding as a means of self-publishing and possibly releasing the game for Steam Early Access.

This preview is based on a demo featured at the Day of the Devs: San Francisco Edition during GDC 2024.

Contributing Editor

Once upon a time, Nick's parents confiscated his Super Nintendo because he was "playing it too much." He has secretly sworn revenge ever since. Nick is now a freelance writer for various video game sites. Powered by iced green tea, he typically plays RPGs of all kinds like Shin Megami Tensei, Elder Scrolls, and Fallout. In his spare time, he follows the latest season of Critical Role.

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